EDISON – Mary Snyder stood with some of her neighbors at the corner of Glendale and Silver Lake avenues looking out at the vacant property proposed for a warehouse with offices.
“I’ve been here 50 years,” she said on Nov. 8.
Snyder’s residence on Silver Lake Avenue was the reason the Planning Board stopped the meeting on Nov. 2, which was held at the Performing Arts Center at Middlesex County College.
The Planning Board was in the midst of hearing two applications – a proposal for a minor subdivision for an existing contractor’s business, J. Sheer Industries, on one lot and warehouse/offices on a vacant lot and a proposal to construct a 176,630-square-foot warehouse with offices on the vacant lot at 41 Glendale Ave. The area is in the light industrial zone.
Both applications were advertised as being fully conforming with provisions of the zoning ordinance and other land use regulations in the municipality. Planning Board Attorney Michael Rubin had prefaced the meeting stating fully conforming subdivision and site plan applications cannot be denied for any reason such as traffic conditions. He said the board, however, was permitted to impose reasonable conditions.
Steven Tripp, of Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, Woodbridge, attorney for 41 Glendale Avenue LLC, said the minor subdivision would essentially consolidate nine different tax lots of all different shapes and sizes, which is divided by a Conrail railroad line, into two independent lots.
Scott Turner, engineer for 41 Glendale Avenue LLC, said most of the lots are vacant except for a one-story masonry building, a two-and-a-half story structure, which was one time a residence, and two masonry garage buildings. Turner said the buildings are owned and utilized by J. Sheer Industries.
After testimony, board member Mark Daniele questioned if tenants utilize the two-and-a-half story structure as a residence. He said he drove past the residence and observed an old fashioned clothes line.
Tripp continually said he was assured by the site manager, who was at the meeting, the site was not used as a residence. However, roughly an hour into the meeting, Tripp asked for a five minute recess. After the recess, Tripp said it came to their attention the usage of the former residential structure needed clarification before they could move forward.
“We need to investigate that and if it turns out there is a residential use of that property we need to either terminate it or it ends up as a use variance issue,” he said. “I’d have to resolve that with your attorney. We’re hopeful to resolve the issue and to have any residential use ceased by the next meeting in discussions with the owner.”
Rubin said residential uses are not permitted in industrial zones.
“A use not permitted needs a D-2 variance for expansion of a non-conforming use,” he said. “The Zoning Board of Adjustment is the only board with jurisdiction over a D variance.”
The residents along Silver Lake Avenue and the intersecting streets have been protesting against the proposal of the warehouse since they learned about it in August through resident Ron Loeffler. Signs of “Protect Silverlake – No Warehouse” line the street.
Loeffler said he found out about the proposed warehouse after seeing a township councilman make a presentation on upcoming Planning Board applications.
“I called around asking neighbors if they had heard about it and no one did,” he said.
The next morning Loeffler painted and mounted a sign at the top of the hill on Silver Lake Avenue about the warehouse.
Eric Colon, who has lived in the area at three different residences since 1970, said he saw the sign against the warehouse and stopped to ask Loeffler about it. The news about the warehouse snowballed through the neighborhood from there.
Colon, Virginia White, Laura Uhlig-Smith, Delia Landolfi and Kaitlyn Duarte gathered to discuss why they were against the site in their neighborhood with the Criterion Sentinel on Nov. 8. Snyder, who said she could not make the meeting on Nov. 2, said she learned she was the talk of the meeting. She said as of Nov. 8, no one had notified her about vacating her residence she shares with a friend.
Residents said the proposed warehouse would be a detriment to their close-knit neighborhood of multiple generations of families and single-family homes with increased truck traffic on Silver Lake Avenue, which they say is narrow already with no sidewalks. The street is a dead end that terminates at the Raritan River.
White said a petition against the warehouse proposal circulated, which garnered 130 signatures.
“It’s just not a good plan,” she said, adding the area is not fit to be a mini Raritan Center, which is home to hundreds of businesses in the township.
The Silver Lake Avenue area has been planned to be the origin for a walking and bicycle path along the PSE&G Right of Way line in the Edison Master Plan for more than 30 years. Colon said the area used to the be the center of the township with the former municipal building.
“There’s so much history … we’ve become the forgotten section of Edison,” he said.
Uhlig-Smith said a walking and bicycle path interconnecting with the Edison Boat Basin and River Walk on Meadow Road would increase their property values more than the proposed warehouse. She also said residents are concerned about wildlife in the area.
The residents have set up a Facebook page Silverlake Edison and have a “No Warehouse Silver Lake Edison” GoFundMe page.
Some members of the Township Council have been vocal and in support of the residents on Silver Lake Avenue. The council approved to amend an ordinance to exclude trucks over four tons from traveling on Glendale Avenue and Silver Lake Avenue at a meeting on Oct. 14. The New Jersey Department of Transportation is reviewing the amendment.
The next scheduled Planning Board meeting for the proposed warehouse proposal is scheduled for Dec. 7.